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An inside look at the pickup artist community in the Philippines

There’s a history to the local pickup community.

In 2007, the pickup artist/seduction community earned its way to American media through VH1’s reality TV show The Pickup Artist, where jilted male lovers and frustrated virgins (some later exposed to be struggling actors aiming to get their big break) compete in challenges where they attempt to seduce women in various situations. After The Pickup Artist, Mystery, along with other self-proclaimed pickup artists (PUA), spread methods of seduction through workshops and seminars. The show wasn’t a hit, but it did signify a nationwide consciousness for this community.

“The number one characteristic of an alpha male is the smile,” says Mystery,  host of The Pickup Artist, and one of the main characters in the autobiographical novel The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists by Neil Strauss. The Game is their Bible: codified language included, such as “F-Close” and “Shotgun Neg” included. They operate using pseudonyms to protect their identity. And they share their methods with other men in the guise of self-improvement via scheduled workshops, and now online video tutorials. It was a way of life that for some, represented hope in finding a romantic relationship, or at the very least, a method of getting laid.

Imagine a classroom full of men learning how to emotionally manipulate a woman. Sound familiar? It’s because the same classrooms are held in the Philippines lead by a student from one of the pick up artist classes in America: Smooth, a.k.a. Ssein Meneses, who caught nationwide flak for his PUA Academy, a local version  of Mystery’s seduction classes.

But even before the recent public backlash, Smooth had already been operating. A documentary from seven years ago on Youtube reveals that not only has Smooth been calling himself a pickup artist for several years now, but that nothing has changed.

Initially the mainstream attention spelled more business for PUA Academy, according to an insider who has been part of the local pickup artist community for a few years. “They don’t actually feel threatened right now,” Joe* (not his real name) shares after sending a screenshot for an upcoming workshop on a messaging app. “Actually, dumami ‘yung e-mails na nare-recieve nina Meneses ngayon…they want to attend the PUA bootcamp.”

The PUA Academy has since then been deleted, yet the pickup artist community is still there, hidden in secret invite-only Facebook groups. And they’ll resurface soon enough once the heat is off.

Because PUA Academy, The Pickup Artist, the incredible true-to-life characters in The Game…they all point towards a chauvinistic point of view, one of which flattens women into objects for pleasure and dating into a string of exploitative, manipulative behavior. The very foundation of this community lies in deception.The truth of it is that these groups thrive in the peripheries, as something unknown save for a select few. Their greatest strength, and most alluring quality to would-be members, is their anonymity.

May mga good guys naman diyan who want to study PUA because they want to have a shot at beautiful girls or find the love of their life, but there are also guys out there who are misogynistic predators talaga,” Joe* argues. But they’ve been left unchecked for so long.  Hidden in plain sight in our social circles as our coworkers, classmates, even our own relatives,  we may haven’t given it much thought, but they’ve always been...there. 

Hidden in plain sight in our social circles as our coworkers, classmates, even our own relatives,  we may haven’t given it much thought, but they’ve always been...there.

It’s time to speak out; Exposing them would be their death. Or at least, the start of a purge, both for male predatory behavior and the underpinnings it hinges itself on in our society.

Art by Chelsea Madamba


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